Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a lawsuit first launched in 2017 over gender-based wage discrimination, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Three former female employees accused Google of segregating women into lower paying jobs that curbed advancement, while similarly-qualified men didn't face those obstacles.
The lawsuit was expanded to class-action status in 2021 and the settlement covers around 15,500 female employees who worked in Google's California offices after September 2013. It includes a clause that independent experts must review Google's hiring practices and pay-equity studies, according to the law office representing the plaintiffs. However, Google admitted no wrongdoing as part of the deal.
"While we strongly believe in the equity of our policies and practices, after nearly five years of litigation, both sides agreed that resolution of the matter, without any admission or findings, was in the best interest of everyone, and we’re very pleased to reach this agreement," Google spokesperson Chris Pappas told the WSJ.
Google ran a pay-equity analysis to see if salaries, equity awards and bonuses were fair since 2013. The co-counsel for the plaintiffs said that the settlement would be "precedent-setting" for the industry.
"As a woman who’s spent her entire career in the tech industry, I’m optimistic that the actions Google has agreed to take as part of this settlement will ensure more equity for women," said one of the original three plaintiffs, Holly Pease, in a statement from law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein. "Google, since its founding, has led the tech industry. They also have an opportunity to lead the charge to ensure inclusion and equity for women in tech."
Google is far from the only tech company to face complaints over gender-based pay. Riot Games recently paid $10 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit while Microsoft, Uber and other firms have faced pay equity accusations. The gender pay gap in the US didn't improve last year, according to the labor group SHRM — March 15 is still Equal Pay Day, the date that represents how far into 2022 women have to work to earn what men earned by the end of 2021.